Midnight mauling: Men’s D1 hockey sweeps Pittsburgh in two-game series

The Liberty University Flames men’s D1 Hockey team took on the Panthers of Pittsburgh University to end the semester with a Midnight Mayhem game Dec. 1 and the Teddy Bear Toss on Saturday. The Flames managed to go into the break on a high note, sweeping the Panthers.

This series was a rematch of the ACHA national tournament meetup from last season, when Liberty knocked the Panthers out and ended their season.

In Friday’s contest, the Flames graced the ice for their last Midnight Mayhem game of the semester. The first period of play was a stalemate, with Hunter Virostek for the Flames and Devin Barresi for the Panthers both making fantastic saves between the pipes.

With 4:50 remaining in the first period, senior forward Kam Ottenbreit found sophomore defenseman Nick Pomerleau to give the Flames a 1-0 lead. Pitt would respond quickly when sophomore Brady Rotolo forced a turnover and scored to tie the game at one after the first period of play.

The second period of play would see Liberty take the lead after several penalties on the Panthers. The Flames capitalized on the man advantage, netting two power-play goals, the first by sophomore forward Sam Feamster and the second by graduate forward Jackson Vercellono, who was assisted by fellow forward and graduate Captain Matthew Bartel. The last goal of the second would come on even play when senior Truett Olson found the back of the net with 6:23 remaining.

The Panthers would not go away though, as early in the final period, Pitt forward Josh Hrip got his team back into it with 18:06 left to play to cut into the Flames’ lead. Bartel, however, answered fast, finding the net after an assist from Ottenbreit to seal the deal. Pitt would find the net in crunch time to try and make a comeback with 4:18 left when Edward Pazo would score, but that would be it, and the Flames celebrated in front of the home crowd with a 5-3 win.

“The third period is not who we want to be,” Liberty Head Coach Kirk Handy said. “That should have been a 6-2 game, not a 5-3 game, so we have to get better at finishing a game. We let 20 minutes coast by in the third.”

One of the strongest aspects of the game for the Flames was the special teams units — the team capitalized on both of its power-play attempts. Also, on the four times the Flames were down a man, they managed to prevent the Panthers from scoring and even got some good looks of their own.

“Coach (Jonathan) Chung has done a good job with the PK,” Handy said. “I believe we have three units of guys that can get the job done real effective, and it was great.”

Less than 24 hours from the end of the first game, the Flames and Panthers met again on the ice for the Teddy Bear Toss game, and it would take some time for the Flames and Panthers to wake up with a scoreless first period and a half of play.

The Flames would be behind for the first time in the series when Pazo netted his second goal of the series. The momentum would be short-lived, however, as Olson scored his second goal of the weekend series to tie the game and finally let the teddy bears fly onto the ice to celebrate the Flames’ first goal of the game.

Bartel then gave the Flames the lead with nine minutes remaining in the game, and they would not look back as senior forward Jason Foltz would net the insurance goal while on a power play. The goal served as Foltz’s 100th career point as a Flame, sealing the game and the series sweep for Liberty.

The Flames will enter into the Christmas break 12-7 on the season, slated to face the Syracuse Orange Jan. 19 at the LaHaye Ice Center.

Spangler is a sports reporter for the Liberty Champion

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *